The Lord be with you: Let us pray: Gracious Father, give us strength to endure the trials and tribulations so that by faith we may persevere to the end, and by Your grace and mercy, order our days in wisdom so that we are found faithful when You call each of us to appear before You. Deliver us into eternal life with You. In Your precious name we pray, Amen.
Close your eyes and try to visualize these words from John: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages , standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” If for no other reason than the image you visualized, there is great joy and thanksgiving in celebrating All Saints Day in the church.
And, as if that were not enough, we got to sleep in an extra hour to really enjoy this day; a day of remembrance of loved ones who have taken their place among the “great multitude that no one could number.” It is also a day to remember those in our church who, over the last twelve months, have joined the ranks of the Church Triumphant in heaven, alongside the Springs of Living water” Robert Stinson. Kathy Caudill. Ursula Dungan.
The joy of being a member of the church triumphant is not yet ours to savor. For now we are soldiers of the church militant. No, we do not come into God’s house wearing battle fatigues, with helmets on and 80lbs of weapons and supplies of war strapped to our backs. We do, though, come into God’s house with the weight of sin pressing upon our shoulders.
We encamp here in God’s House, soldiers of the cross, around the fire of the Holy Spirit, to receive blessed absolution for our sinfulness, to sing praises and give thanks to God for His mercy upon us and to draw nearer to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We come into God’s House to eat and drink of the holy meal: C-Rations -Christ’s holy gift of His true body and blood given and shed for forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And as we eat of His body and drink of His Blood we do so with the saints of the Church Triumphant.
We come into God’s House to receive our marching orders; to hear God’s pure words of Law and Gospel; to receive His grace and favor; to renew and strengthen our hearts and minds for the battles and casualties of life in the war zone that is our broken world.
Is that the Christian soldiers’ assignment in life? That in doing so they might be promoted to sainthood, exchange their Class A uniforms for white robes, turn in that M-16 for a palm branch? Is becoming a saint a matter of how many ribbons the Christian soldier earns during their lifetime service? Or is achieving sainthood tied to how well a Christian exhibits in life the traits outlined by Jesus in the Gospel lesson for today from St. Matthew? The Beatitudes.
Quick answer: No and No. Why not? Second question first. Is sainthood tied to a Christian’s “Be-attitude?” Contrary to popular opinion, the Beatitudes are not rules and guidelines to follow in order to attain blessings from God. Yet that is exactly how many people treat them. After you have done your part, THEN God will bless you.
Many struggle in their faith thinking they are working hard to follow the beatitudes and are still not attaining blessings in their lives. “I do them over and over again and I'm still getting hammered. The problem with that thinking is that it puts the onus on you to do your part first before God will bless you. Have you even been blessed by God and didn’t deserve it?
Truth is the Beatitudes aren't about you; at least, not primarily about you. That may be difficult for some folks to swallow because, well, everything is about them. If they aren't happy, then no one is to be happy. The Beatitudes, first and foremost, are about Jesus. These statements of blessedness—are not prescriptions for us, but descriptions of Christ Jesus.
Jesus has the perfect faith in His Father. He is pure in heart. He is totally poor in spirit, meaning that He brings nothing to the table except faith and trust in His Father alone. Jesus does mourn for the sinner in their sin. Almighty God Himself is meek and lowly. He doesn't force anyone to believe. He doesn't bully you into being faithful. He doesn't strike you down the moment you mess up. He is patient and merciful and long-suffering. He is the true peacemaker, and He is persecuted and reviled for doing it.
Picture yourself standing in front of a mirror. Now contrast yourself with these Christological realities: Perfect faith, poor in spirit, trusting in God above all things? Are you still looking in the mirror or looking away? I’m not. I confess. Mourning and grieving over sin—my sin—the sin I commit against God and against my neighbor? Oh we are good at mourning and grieving over the sin somebody else commits. But, when it comes to our own sin, we rarely mourn or grieve, unless we get caught.
We'll justify our sin. We'll defend our sin, calling it something other than sin, declaring it to be "okay" this time, in this instance. But we rarely express grief over the fact we have indeed committed sin; sin that caused Christ Jesus to give up heaven and die on a cross. Yes—that should grieve us! Jesus died because of us and our sin, and yet all too often we're too busy defending and justifying ourselves to let that sink in and take effect.
Meek and lowly, patient and long-suffering, a persecuted peacemaker? True meekness and lowliness takes up the cross and journeys on. True meekness and lowliness gets reviled and persecuted, spit at and beaten… and takes it. Meek and lowly stands like a lamb, silent before the shearers. How about you? Meek and lowly…or a resounding gong and clanging cymbal?
We don’t practice the Beatitudes to attain sainthood or to acquire God's blessing. But that’s okay. We can’t ever earn His blessings! Blessedness is not a goal we achieve. It's a condition we are found to be in. In faith, we are poor, lowly, persecuted, reviled and beat down.
The world looks at us in our faith and calls us "cursed." God looks at us in the midst of our faith; as casualties in the war zone that is this world and He sees blessedness. He finds us and declares us blessed, because of Christ alone! Because we cling to Christ alone!
A Christian soldier’s moral character and works are not what makes a saint. The work of making one a saint is not the product of anything we do. In John's vision, the process for making someone a saint is revealed when an elder asks John, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" (v13) And then the elder answers his own question: "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb."
"The blood of the Lamb" – that’s the key to sainthood. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" We are made saints in God's eyes by the washing and cleansing of our sinful selves in the blood of the Lamb - "The blood of Jesus [God's] Son [that] cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7)
The prophet Isaiah wrote "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." in John's vision today we are told that by Christ's blood spilled out on the cross, our garments have been made pure. Christ's holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death removes the pollution of sin and guilt from us and makes us righteous - makes us saints - in God's eyes. The WORK of CHRIST and none other makes us holy, blameless, clothes us in the robe of His righteousness, a pure, white garment fitted for the saints in heaven.
No one can confer sainthood on themselves or on anyone else. Sainthood is conferred on us, the polluted, the imperfect, by the perfect life of the Son of Man who suffered and died "To reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.' Col 1:23) sealing all believers, of all times, all places, all tribes, and all languages.
The Lutheran doctrine of simul justus et peccator (at the same time a saint and a sinner) comes through loud and clear in our lessons for today. Only Christ fulfills these attributes perfectly. And for this we rejoice. The saints of God who've gone on before us to the eternal Church Triumphant, are there not because they were good people who did saintly works. They are there because they were damned sinners who deserved nothing but present and eternal punishment, but they clung to the grace and mercy of their heavenly Father; grace He lovingly bestowed upon them when Jesus said, "It is finished." The saints of God cling to these words.
Simul Justus et Peccator. Those words of justification were the basis for the lives of our dearly departed saints, even as they lived out their lives in this sin-filled world. Did those saints do good works? Yes. But that is not why God called them saints. They didn't trust in works or merits. Their good works were a result of their justification. The joy of their justification produced these fruits of faith. They trusted in nothing but their justification in Christ alone. That's why they were and are among the saints of God who join us today in singing praises and giving all glory to God. Good news Christians soldiers. You too are saints.
You are surrounded by saints; by souls whom God has found to be in a state of blessedness because of faith alone in Christ alone. May this Good News of your justification bring you peace that surpasses all human understanding, may it take root in your heart to bear abundant, faithful fruit in all you say and to in service to Christ and in glory to God our Father.
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (LCMS) / All Saints Day (Observed) / November 3, 2019“ / Simul Justus Et Peccator”/ Matthew 5: 1-2, Rev. 7:9-17 / Rev. David Brockhouse
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Mt. Olive Lutheran Church - LCMS 3200 W Loop 1604 S San Antonio, TX 78245
Mt. Olive is a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod